Saturday, December 23, 2017

Justin's Top 25 Albums of 2017

As usual for most years this is not a ranked numbered list, but just an alphabetically numbered listed. These are my favorite albums throughout the year that I spent time on and appreciated. I've never been very good at ranking.

1. Alex Cameron - Forced Witness

In a year when the #Metoo campaign was named Time Person(s) of the Year and a literal representation of toxic masculinity resides in the White House Alex Cameron's second album feels apropos. It's a pastiche of Springsteen-esque radio rock, and 80's lite pop rock but beneath the slick surface is an intentionally uncomfortable lyrical world of male narrators that are hopped up on themselves to darkly comedic effect. They think they're all that and a bag of chips but they're really not, and their attempts to mansplain to you how awesome they are just comes across as pathetic in the end. Cameron wanted to really explore the reality of toxic masculinity and one figures he doesn't have to seek too far to see its reality. That's true of most men, even if they aren't nearly as brutally honest about it as Cameron is.

2. Alvvays - Antisocialities

Alvvay's anthemic indie rock is played out to great effect in their sophomore album, a collection of beautiful rock songs that you should play while driving your car with the windows down and the radio volume high up.

3. Curtis Harding - Face Your Fear

Compared to another famous Curtis, the great musician Curtis Mayfield, Harding's brand of neo-indie soul is a treat to listen to. Blending elements of 60's psychedelia and motown, Face Your Fear is a followup to Harding's first album, Soul Power. Curtis has worked with The Black Lips' Cole Alexander and as a backup singer for Cee Lo Green. The influences are strong there, but he also has his own sound that is fast becoming an artist that you need to hear. Includes one of my favorite songs of the year, On and On.

4. Feist - Pleasure

Pleasure is Feist's fifth studio album, and the fact that she's still going strong after all these years is testament to how great an artist she is. Pleasure mixes up her sound a bit, adding more rock elements with some songs even having an almost grunge edge, like the title track. She still is one of the best.

5. Flobots - Noenemies

I feel bad that I never discovered Flobots til this year, Noenemies is their fourth album, and follows after a long 5 year break. Hip Hop and Rap with a message of protest and civil rights for the social justice minded young person.

6. Gordi - Reservoir

Reservoir is Gordi's debut album, but it honestly sounds like she's been making music for years. It's a gorgeous rock album, full of quiet, powerful songs. Gordi sounds like she came straight out of 1996. Definitely one of my most favorites of the year.

7. Haim - Something To Tell You

Haim came hard on the indie scene with 2013's Days Are Gone and their followup is a slightly more radio friendly pop record that has its own strengths and singular charm, if not completely living up to the hype around their debut. Standouts include Want You Back, which has been made into a pretty great music video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson himself.

8. Hand Habits - Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void)

Meg Duffy aka Hand Habits has worked with Kevin Morby before and her sound is similar in the 60's psychedelic bedroom rock, but has crafted a debut album all her own full of intimate, brooding, tunes. It's a great album worth the listen

9. Human Leather - Lazy Karaoke

Last year I made a big mistake, somehow I missed what became my favorite album of the year, Choir Boy's Passive With Desire. Human Leather is Adam Klopp from Choir Boy and his friend Chaz Costello of Sculpture Club, both bands that are big in the Salt Lake City indie scene, but finding a name for themselves in wider circles. Like Choir Boy, Human Leather makes great use of Klopp's amazing voice, a voice that gives Freddie Mercury a run for his money, a voice Klopp gained from being a literal choir boy in a Mormon church. Musically they are 80's post punk and goth influenced synth pop, with influences ranging from Depeche Mode to The Cure. It's really good music.

10. Lando Chill - The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind

Hip Hop and Rap has been experiencing a renaissance of social activism, and protest for civil rights. Black artists are raising their voices left and right in one voice for their valid existence. Lando Chill might not be a name you recognize, but his music is just as powerful as any Kendrick Lamar album. Chill says his latest album is influenced by Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, and carries spiritual as well as social significance. It's a great rap album, and I hope more people discover it and get this guy the fame he deserves, as well as hear the message his music gives.

11. Lotte Kestner - Off White

Lotte Kestner has one of those amazing voices that you can listen to for hours, a quiet, soulful, folksy sound. She's been making music for years, and I always look forward to new music from her.

12. Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

DeMarco's brand of quirky lo fi indie rock is a personal favorite of mine even if I know a lot of people consider him hipster white guy music. This Old Dog showcases most of his strengths.

13. Midnight Sister - Saturn Over Sunset

When I first heard Midnight Sister's first single, Leave You, I knew they were something special, and I couldn't wait til Saturn Over Sunset came out. It's a pastiche of 70's pop, from folk to disco, and straight out of Hollywood. Nothing feels more Los Angeles circa late 70's early 80's than this album, and it's great.

14. Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

Moses Sumney's voice is an instrument all itself, a soulful cry. His music a kind of futuristic synth soul. Every note is as jazzy as it is soulful, and his voice weaves in and out like a flute. It's honestly a beautiful, at times sad, album.

15. Nick Hakim - Green Twins

Hakim's brand of neo-psychedelic soul is one of my favorite genres, and he's a master at it.

16. Perfume Genius - No Shape

I'm glad to see No Shape on a lot of year end lists, cause it's just gorgeous. Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, just gets better with each album he makes. Synthy, piano based indie pop that is a celebration of queer relationships everywhere, and Mike's own with his longtime collaborator Alan Wyffels.

17. Sera Cahoone - From Where I Stand

Cahoone's Deer Creek Canyon was my favorite album of 2012, an alt country gem. From Where I Stand is a good album, continuing the folk and alt country goodness. I'll be listening to this one for a while on those nights when I just need a quiet folksy song to feel better. Sera Cahoone is healing, soothing, music.

18. The Shins - Heartworms

Heartworms is The Shin's best album since 2001's Oh, Inverted World a return to the quirky indie pop rock that made such a name for them and rocketed them to fame. Almost 17 years later they still sound as great as they did when they started out. If this is a sign of their comeback, I'm all there for the fun.

19. Sleeping Bag - Wet

No one plays indie rock/power pop quite like Sleeping Bag.

20. Slowdive - Slowdive

Speaking of comebacks this was a great year for shoegaze pioneers Slowdive, who managed to make a great reunion album, their first since 1995's Pygmalion. What's amazing is this is only their fourth album. It just goes to show that waiting for things can really pay off, and that it works to take your time instead of shell out a new release once a year. Sugar For The Pill is especially a great song.

21. Sound of Ceres - The Twin

Then again, if Sound of Ceres' The Twin is any indication, sometimes you can make great art even at a fast pace. It was only last year they debuted their first album Nostalgia For Infinity and they've already got a great second album under their belt with this one. Excellent shoegaze from former members of Candy Claws, as well as collaborators from The Drums and Apples in Stereo.

22. Tennis - Yours Conditionally

Tennis' new album is also their most retro sounding, much like their almost 70's looking cover art, this album sounds like it could have come out of the 70's. It's a bit soul, and indie pop. It's really good.

23. Thundercat - Drunk

It's hard to categorize Thundercat's sound. It's at once hip hop, soul, electronic, and very good. Produced by Flying Lotus and featuring collabs with Kenny Loggins, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell and more it's just a great album.

24. Trailer Trash Tracy's - Althaea

This band's strange blend of quirky sounds is very experimental, but manages to still sound like a great synth pop or indie pop record. Their first album Ester sounded more shoegaze and rock, but for Althaea they have explored more electronic and synth sounds. It all blends together for a luscious expansive album that isn't afraid to take you places you've never been before.

25. Vagabon - Infinite Worlds

Whereas some of these bands sounds defy categorization, Laetitia Tamko aka Vagabon defies stereotypes. A young black woman in an indie rock genre that is mostly white she is making a name for herself by being defiantly herself as well as rocking out with every beautiful song. She doesn't just try to be a black artist, she is an artist. Her sound is all her own, and her lyrics are deeply personal, dealing with issues ranging from the politics of space and being a black woman in white spaces, as well as just life stuff. She is an up and coming artist that shows the changing face of indie rock and brings a much needed diversity of worldview and perspective. Also Infinite Worlds is just a really good rock album.

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